Asia Markets

Chinese stocks surge as investors shrug off virus fears; Softbank surges nearly 12%

Key Points
  • Stocks in Asia rose on Wednesday, with mainland Chinese stocks leading gains.
  • Shares on Japanese conglomerate Softbank Group jumped 11.89% after a judge stateside approved a merger between T-Mobile and Sprint. Softbank is a majority shareholder of Sprint.

Stocks in Asia rose on Wednesday as investors shrugged off concerns over the ongoing coronavirus outbreak.

Mainland Chinese stocks were among the biggest winners regionally, with the Shenzhen component jumping 1.6% to close at 10,940.80 and the Shenzhen composite surging 1.554% to end its trading day at about 1,785.33. The Shanghai composite also gained 0.87% to close at around 2,926.90. Hong Kong's Hang Seng index was 1.1% higher, as of its final hour of trading.

In Japan, the Nikkei 225 gained 0.74% to close at 23,861.21 as shares of index heavyweight and conglomerate Softbank Group surged 11.89% after a judge stateside approved a merger between T-Mobile and Sprint. Softbank is a majority shareholder of Sprint. The Topix index, on the other hand, ended its trading day slightly lower at 1,718.92.

Meanwhile, South Korea's Kospi added 0.69% to close at 2,238.38.

The S&P/ASX 200 in Australia finished its trading day 0.47% higher at 7,088.20 as shares of Commonwealth Bank of Australia surged 4.08% following the release of its half year results.

Shares of Australian health supplements firm Blackmores bucked the overall trend as they plunged 12.79%. The company had earlier announced a scrapping of its dividend and the expectation that this year's profit will more than halve as its supply chain is impacted by the coronavirus outbreak, according to Reuters.

Overall, the MSCI Asia ex-Japan index was 0.8% higher.

"From a coronavirus perspective, I think ... the concerns have probably peaked," Steve Brice, chief investment strategist at Standard Chartered Private Bank, told CNBC's "Street Signs" on Wednesday. "It does seem that ... the very strong actions that have been taken by the authorities are starting to bear some fruits."

Brice said markets will likely now focus on the "knock-on economic impact" and effect on corporate earnings as a result of measures taken by authorities in China and elsewhere in the region to tackle the virus outbreak.

Overnight on Wall Street, the S&P 500 closed 0.2% higher at 3,357.75 while the Nasdaq Composite advanced 0.1% to end its trading day stateside at 9,638.94. The Dow Jones Industrial Average rose as much as 138 points before closing flat at 29,276.34.

The moves came after U.S. Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell said the central bank is "closely monitoring" the situation surrounding the ongoing coronavirus outbreak and its potential impact to China and the global economy, though he noted that it is "too early to say" how the disease could hit the U.S. economy.

Powell's comments come as investors continue to grapple with uncertainty surrounding the virus that has already taken more than 1,000 lives, with most of them coming from China, where the outbreak was first reported.

"Based on (Powell's) comments, it is clear that the Fed is unfazed because China has taken strong measures to contain the virus and provide liquidity. There are very few cases in the US and so far, the impact on the US economy is limited," Kathy Lien, managing director of foreign exchange strategy at BK Asset Management, wrote in a note dated Feb. 11.

Lien warned, however, that "many factories supplying US business in China remain shut and flights to China remain canceled."

Currencies and oil

The U.S. dollar index, which tracks the greenback against a basket of its peers, was last at 98.841 after touching an earlier low of 98.734.

The Japanese yen traded at 109.88 against the dollar after seeing an earlier high of 109.76. The Australian dollar was at $0.6729 after seeing an earlier low of $0.6709.

Oil prices rose in the afternoon of Asian trading hours, with international benchmark Brent crude futures up 2.06% to $55.12 per barrel. U.S. crude futures also added 1.48% to $50.68 per barrel.